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Why Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Women” poem went viral.

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In the spring of 2013 at a college slam poetry invitational, a 20 year old sophomore named Lily decided, in the last 20 seconds before going onstage, to perform a poem she wrote about learning how to not take up too much space in the world, how to “filter,” how to accommodate. She’d noticed that she tended to start a lot of her questions in class with “Sorry,” and that the women in her family tended to “shrink” — to eat so little that they got smaller over time, while the men grew larger.  So she wrote about it, and found the courage to say it aloud.

Watch her performance below or HERE.

Evidently the poem struck a nerve with some people. With a lot of people, actually, because it very quickly went viral and was viewed by more than 3 million people in less than a year’s time.

Here’s why we think it went viral…

We coach people every day who believe they should not show up “too loud” or “too big,” should not take up space, should apologize for their opinions.  To be clear, these are educated, professional people who are in truth very, very competent.

And, while we meet men who do this, we find the issue to be far more common among women.

Lily talked about her poem and her observations in an interview with THE SISTERHOOD:  “I used eating in this poem as a way to show a more ingrained way we shrink. Frustrated with ways I would shrink. I would not say something that was on my mind, not take control of a situation. I saw other women around me doing the same thing.”

We don’t pretend to know why so many people, women especially, feel they can’t show up as their authentic selves.  Certainly cultural conditioning must play a role, and there is likely someone in the past who gave  the message — unspoken or overtly — that they needed to watch their step, not show up with authority.

What we do know is how to help people find their way to step into their personal power by becoming more of who they are — their authentic self — and by showing up in a way that shares power with others in what we call “PARTNER” mode.

The first step is to be willing to speak up.  Like Lily did.  Except, she almost didn’t.

As she told Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson of the PBS show HERE & NOW,  “I hadn’t decided that I was going to read that poem until about 20 seconds before I went onstage. Actually, you can – I’m closing my eyes at the beginning….And I’m kind of deciding.”

Yes, we saw you doing that Lily.  What was the hesitation about?  “I was feeling small at the time… and I was thinking, “People are going to think that I don’t like men.”

Well, you see, there’s the classic dilemma for strong smart women.  Do you speak up and risk being seen as “pushy,” “opinionated,” and “strident?”  Or do you hold your tongue and come across as “weak,” “timid,” or “wishy-washy” and “too accommodating?”  You do have another option: “Partner” — respecting others’ opinions as strongly as you respect your own. And being courageous enough to voice those opinions without putting yourself or the other person down.

She said this about her decision to go ahead:  “….one of my very best friends, who is a very inspirational poet and was our slam coach, really encouraged me to do this poem. She was like, Lily, you just need to do it. This is what people need to hear.”

Since the video went viral, Lily reports that she’s heard from people all over the world with whom it struck a chord.  And she told her NPR interviewers it’s making a difference for her, too.  “More day-to-day, I find myself speaking up a lot more when I’m uncomfortable. I say it now because it’s true. I didn’t use to identify as a feminist because people don’t like that word or judge, but now I think it means equal rights for everyone and I’m not going to apologize. It feels good to not shrink anymore in that way.”

We are so pleased for Lily and wish her all the best.  She continues to write and explore the world, saying: “I write a lot about women or growing up as a woman, the contradictions and challenges, but also the joy. It’s a theme I find endlessly interesting.” 

You can find her writing and more on her blog, THE SHAPES WE MAKE, created with her colleague Kate.  They note that “Lily is an accomplished slam poet, beautiful singer, and wonderful starfruit” while “Kate is a graceful dancer, published novella author, and radiant strawberry.”

Don’t ever shrink, Lily and Kate.  Dare to be big!

 

 

 

 

 

Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” as a Theme Song

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If we have a theme song right now, it’s BRAVE by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff (lead guitarist of the band fun.)

As Bareilles said in an interview, ““I think there’s so much honor and integrity and beauty in being able to be who you are.  It’s important to be brave because by doing that you also give others permission to do the same.”

We couldn’t agree more, especially with the part about giving others “permission.”  One of the reasons we work in small groups is that sometimes a breakthrough moment comes not in your own coaching but by watching someone else be coached.  It’s the “If she can do it, I can do it” factor (more about that HERE).

We recommend you BUY the song, and play it before anything you do that requires you to be Brave!

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if youSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveWith what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be braveEverybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave isSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be braveWith what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you